New Security Scheme Protects Data from Hackers

Dennis Faas's picture

A new security technique could completely prevent hackers from intercepting data communications. The technique involves hiding an encryption key inside the same light that travels through standard fiber optic cables.

The technique, known as quantum key distribution, uses a small amount of data as a key for decrypting much larger quantities of data.

Quantum key distribution conveys the encryption key in the form of photons, the fundamental elements of visible light.

Polarized photons can be used to indicate a 0 or a 1 -- standard computer binary code -- which is enough to carry any digital information, including a data encryption key. (Source:

Until now, quantum cryptography and quantum key distribution had a big practical limitation: the light carrying the encryption key had to be sent all alone on a separate fiber cable -- a very expensive proposition.

Quantums Help Detect Hackers Instantly

The improvement in this new technology is that the key is separated into individual bits, and transmitted one at a time at predetermined intervals through a standard fiber optic cable.

A timing mechanism at the receiving end opens just long enough to receive each bit, so the key itself is separated from and not drowned out by the vast number of photons carrying other information inside the fiber cable. (Source:

The technique is perfect for security purposes because photons fall into a class of materials known as quantums. At the quantum level, simply observing photons can change their state irreversibly.

Should hackers attempt to intercept the data stream, they would irrevocably change it, thereby making their presence known.

Technique Could Revolutionize Internet Security

It appears the technique will most likely be adopted by large organizations -- governmental, financial, military, and the like -- that require quick and secure data transmissions.

However, in the long run it could mean improved security for all Internet users.

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